June 21, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

I love time travel movies, and this time travel movie takes the tested-and-true Groundhog Day blueprint and applies it, beat-for-beat, to an alien battle movie. Starship Troopers-meets-Groundhog Day would be the shortest and most accurate description.
In Edge of Tomorrow, the goal is not to become a better person and win the love of Andie McDowell (thank God, that's happened in enough movies) but to kill the queen bee of an alien invasion force, and do it in one "life", first-person-shooter style. If Cruise were a decorated and respected war hero, he could probably muster enough troops, weapons, and support to blow up the moon on the first try, so to make it interesting, Lt. Col. William Cage is a coward and a deserter who has been stripped of his rank and kicked down to the lowest of the grunts.
Once Cage gets his bearings, he allies himself with Rita Vrataski, an English soldier who has lived this time loop before, and has been catapulted to heroic supersolider status as a result of her success on the battlefield. What's fascinating about the middle third of the movie, is that Cage and Vrataski attempt their near-impossible mission possibly dozens of times...but it's always the first time for Vrataski.
Doug Liman's direction, and an airtight screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth exploits every interesting angle of time travel, and living the same day over and over again, even going farther than Groundhog Day. Andie McDowell never really realizes that Bill Murray has spent weeks and weeks with her, falling in love with her- she only mostly believes his story once the movie is nearly complete.
On the other hand, Liman gives the movie a soft touch too, there's plenty of humor (and a priceless Bill Paxton as a DI) to make the grim action go down easier. My Stub Hubby grade: A-minus for derivative aliens and yet another movie with soliders in exo-skeleton suits.
Writer Notes: Christopher McQuarrie most famously wrote The Usual Suspects, but he's also more recently written two Tom Cruise movies, Valkyie (reteaming with director Bryan Singer) and Jack Reacher (which McQuarrie also directed).

June 1, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Spoilers Ahead...
In the not-too-distant future, the war between humans and mutants escalates beyond human control until the whole world is enslaved by mutant-hunting robots. The mutants are all but wiped out, so in a desperate ploy, the X-Men send Wolverine back in time to the tipping point where the course of history, and civilization's demise, can be changed.
It makes little sense for Mystique to revert to her pretty blonde image
in this scene. It felt like over-explaining her character to me.
This apocalyptic future serves as a framing device for the post-Vietnam storyline- imagine if Morpheus and Trinity sent Neo to 1973 instead of 1999, and that's the structure of the movie, including the idea that Wolverine must complete his mission in the past before the bad robots kill him in the present.
The mutant-killing robots - the Sentinels - are truly intimidating and unstoppable. It's pretty grim watching the X-Men, whose strengths are teamwork and versatility of attack, overcome by ruthless robots that adapt and counter their attacks using their same powers.
Meanwhile, the other X-Men story picks up in 1973, 11 years after X-Men: First Class [2011]. Wolverine must recruit the young Xavier and Magneto to intervene in the course of world events and prevent the Sentinels from being invented, but changing the course of human history is harder than they realize. Xavier believes that one assassination triggers the development of the Sentinels, and therefore, the destruction of the mutant and human races, but preventing one assassination cannot alter mankind's latent fear of mutants.
The idea that altering the past with good intentions can produce unexpected, and catastrophic results, is artfully shown when Wolverine, Beast, Xavier, and Magneto successfully prevent the assassination...and then proceed to accidentally scare the hell out of humanity with the fallout. Instead of pulling the Sentinel program back from the tipping point, they shove it forward, and must clean up their own mess.
The massive finale doesn't completely work for me. It was unclear what Magneto and Mystique's intentions were, and it was not clear how the unfolding events of the third act were affecting the fate of the planet: why did the events in the third act cause the Sentinel program to be shelved?
The new, better future Wolverine returns to included some nice touches, including one moment that literally made me gasp, and tear up a little.
On the whole, Future Past was an ambitious epic endeavor, and director Bryan mostly succeeds, even if the resolution was a little muddy. Stub Hubby's Grade: B-plus
Sequel Notes
What's that? You don't remember how First Class ended, and you're confused over what's happened between that movie and the events of 1974? You're not alone. Singer does not orient us to our new surroundings very well. Why is the X-Men school closed? Was it open in the last movie? Why is Dr Xavier walking? I thought he was paralyzed by a bullet in the last movie? Have Wolverine and Xavier met? Where's Magneto? Behind me in the theater, some truly boring and dumb moviegoers were totally lost by these questions, and I can't blame them. I saw First Class three years ago, I've seen all the X-Men movies, but I was also confused.

Stub Hubby Sees The X-Men Movies

...or click on the label Marvel in the right column